Sport Minister: Jean Pierre Complex not safe, netball facility to be torn down

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Workers at the site of the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain. The structure, built in 1979, will be torn down and rebuilt. – SUREASH CHOLAI

The Jean Pierre Complex – the national netball and multi-sport facility – will be torn down and rebuilt.

Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe confirmed the longstanding facility has finally run its course and must be reconstructed.

The complex is, so far, the only sporting venue given demolition orders while several other local stadia and arenas are queueing up for a comprehensive facelift.

Cudjoe was speaking at Friday’s signing-off on TT’s confirmation as host nation for the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG), held at the Aquatic Centre in Balmain, Couva.

The nation’s mecca of sport, Hasely Crawford Stadium, which sits on the same compound as the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain, is also being assessed for the extent of work to be done on its structure.

“For Jean Pierre Complex and Hasely Crawford Stadium, there is a school of thought that the latter could be refurbished. But we know definitely Jean Pierre has to come down. It’s not safe to have people go into the pavilions, and so on,” Cudjoe said.

The complex was not reopened for sporting activity when pandemic restrictions were lifted in February owing to ongoing structural assessments.

Since the venue was opened in 1979 to host the World Netball Championship, there has never been any major structural rehabilitation.

Cudjoe said the complex is in dire need of a total overhaul and its infrastructure is “outdated.”

“The tricky thing about it is that these facilities were built over 40 years ago, and the work as it relates to plumbing and so on, is done underground, so there’s problems with that.

“The water supply, among other issues causes us to now have to really dig up and get down to the bottom (building foundation) before you fix it.”

The complex is the official home of TT netball but is also used for basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton and other sports.

Newsday recently visited the sports venue which is in a visible state of disrepair. Derelict playing courts, broken furniture and electrical, leaky spots, non-functional bathroom facilities are among a lengthy list of internal and external structural issues there.

The complex is named after Eugenia “Jean” Pierre who starred for the 1979 TT team that shared the World Championship with Australia and New Zealand. She later became minister of sport from 1991-95.

The Sport Company of TT (SporTT) is responsible for the construction and upgrade of recreation grounds for community-level sport and physical activity, as well as the operation and maintenance of high-quality sport facilities for national and elite athletes.

Its chairman Douglas Camacho said, on Saturday, knocking down and rebuilding the complex is part of its plans. The complex, like several others facilities built decades ago, is in need of modern restructuring.

“There were engineering assessments being done on it to determine whether it should come down or not. Because it’s a very dated stadium. It was built in a time, fashion and style that they would hardly do nowadays.

“In the modern world you can’t put pipes and electrical wires in the ground where you have to break walls and flooring to get to them. Now everything is installed with sleeves and conduits and it must be up to the new standards.”

Camacho said although the venue boasts a rich sporting history, an overhaul may be the best option. He even suggested that it will probably cost less to demolish the structure and rebuild it.

However, with TT confirmed as the 2023 CYG hosts, Camacho said priority will be placed on venues such as the Aquatics Centre, National Cycling Centre, Dwight Yorke and Ato Boldon stadia which serve as host venues.

The Jean Pierre Complex and Hasely Crawford Stadium will not be used for the CYG and preliminary works are tentatively set to begin after the games, in late 2023, early 2024.

On the possible timeline for Jean Pierre’s reconstruction, Camacho said, “That will take a lot longer because over the fiscal year 2022/2023, which starts in October until September next year, it’s going to be the ones (venues) for the CYG.

The derelict outdoor court at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain. –

“It’s unlikely the heavy work will begin on Jean Pierre. What will probably happen is the going out for expressions of interest, architects to put forward designs and all the preliminary work for a decision to be made as to what they’re going to go with, and then to build it.”

For projects of that magnitude, SporTT usually partners with Udecott for the construction, while it serves as project management.

He anticipates this is the model that will be used for Jean Pierre.

Hasely Crawford Stadium

A final decision on the future of Hasely Crawford Stadium, remains unclear.

Camacho added, “The national stadium is still in reasonable working condition but with a lot of issues that keep cropping up. So a proper review is being done to determine if it makes sense to try to refurbish and retrofit or does it make more sense to knock it down and rebuild. But I don’t think a firm decision has been made on that.”

Renovations, however, at other local stadia will be done in phases. Cudjoe said that Udecott is currently doing a review of all sporting facilities to determine the way forward.

She confirmed the Manny Ramjohn and Larry Gomes stadia are two sites earmarked for refurbishment.

“Works cannot all happen in this fiscal year, that’s why we’re doing it in phases. We may take the more important areas first whether it’s (fixing) the lighting or restrooms (of the stadia).”

SporTT awaits the assessment findings of each venue and will work with the Sports Ministry to determine what renovations are required at which facilities.

The minister said structural assessments are ongoing at local stadia as they prepare to welcome the world.

“If we’re thinking about really hosting international games and becoming that hub for sporting development in the Caribbean where we can host sport tourism events, then these works are crucial.

“The CYG will help kick start further development to Dwight Yorke Stadium (Tobago), Ato Boldon Stadium (Couva) and other stadia,” said Cudjoe.

The Dwight Yorke Stadium has already been confirmed as the official CYG venue for athletics. The CYG committee is still working out the logistics to host beach volleyball at Pigeon Point and the triathlon in Buccoo.

Additionally, the Aquatic Centre and National Cycling Centre in Balmain will feature the CYG’s swimming and cycling events, with the nearby Ato Boldon Stadium also expected to be named an official venue.

If tennis is confirmed to be held as a CYG sport, the National Racquet Centre, Tacarigua will be used.

“This is just the beginning of our refurbishment or rebuilding. But, there are some facilities that have to be taken down and built from the ground up again, like the Jean Pierre Complex,” said Cudjoe.

During Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s budget presentation last year, he announced that the Sports Ministry’s 2021 allocation of $404,613.209 for recurrent expenditure was revised to $347,233.837, and the allocation for the fiscal year 2022 was $427,208,000.